Bee Orchid

Bee Orchid
The orchid species Diuris carinata is also known as Bee Orchid.
Bee orchid
Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera var. aurita)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Tribe: Orchidae
Subtribe: Orchidinae
Alliance: Orchis
Genus: Ophrys
Species: O. apifera
Binomial name
Ophrys apifera
  • Orchis apifera (Huds.) Salisb.
  • Arachnites apifera (Huds.) Hoffm.
  • Ophrys chlorantha Hegetschw. & Heer
  • Ophrys insectifera var. andrachnites

The Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) is an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the family Orchidaceae.



The name "Ophrys" derives from the Greek word "ophrys", meaning "eyebrow", while the Latin name of the species "apifera" refers to the bee-shaped lip.


Close-up on a flower of Ophrys apifera

The Bee Orchid grows to a height of 15–50 centimetres (5.9–20 in). This hardy orchid develops small rosettes of leaves in autumn. They slowly continue to grow during winter. Basal leaves are ovate or oblong-lanceolate, upper leaves and bracts are ovate-lanceolate and sheathing. The plant blooms from mid-April to July producing a spike composed from one to twelve flowers. The flowers have large sepals, with a central green rib and their color varies from white to pink, while petals are short, pubescent, yellow to greenish. The labellum is trilobed, with two pronounced humps on the hairy lateral lobes, the median lobe is hairy and similar to the abdomen of a bee. It is quite variable in the pattern of coloration, but usually brownish-red with yellow markings. The gynostegium is at right angles, with an elongated apex.


It is the only species of the genus Ophrys, which preferentially practice the self-pollination. The flowers are almost exclusively self-pollinating in the northern ranges of the plant's distribution, but pollination by the solitary bee Eucera occurs in the Mediterranean area. In this case the plant attracts these insects by producing a scent that mimics the scent of the female bee. In addition, the lip acts as a decoy as the male bee confuse it with a female. Pollen transfer occurs during the ensuing pseudocopulation.

Bees in the past have promoted the evolution of bee orchids. Male bees, over many generations of cumulative orchid evolution, have built up the bee-like shape through trying to copulate with flowers, and hence carrying pollen.[1]


The Bee Orchid is a temperate climate species, widespread from the Atlantic to the Caucasus. It is quite common in the Mediterranean region eastwards to the Black Sea but is less common in its northern range being uncommon or local in Germany and Ireland. In the UK it has a distinct south-eastern preference, being more common in England, whereas it is only to be found in coastal regions of Wales and some parts of Northern Ireland. In Scotland it was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in Ayrshire in 2003. In some countries the plants have protected status. They are unusual in that in some years they appear in great numbers, then sometimes only reappear after an absence of many years.


Orchis apifera generally grows on semi-dry turf, in grassland, on limestone, calcareous dunes or in open areas in woodland. It prefers calcareous soils, in bright light or dim light, , at an altitude of 1,200–1,400 metres (3,900–4,600 ft) above sea level.


The Bee Orchid is the County flower of Bedfordshire.[2]


  • Ophrys apifera var. apifera
  • Ophrys apifera var. bicolor
  • Ophrys apifera var. botteronii
  • Ophrys apifera var. friburgensis
  • Ophrys apifera var. immaculata
  • Ophrys apifera var. trollii



  1. ^ Dawkins, R. (1986) The Blind Watchmaker
  2. ^ Plantlife website County Flowers page
  • Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia (3 voll.) - Edagricole – 1982, Vol. III
  • Tutin, T.G. et al. - Flora Europaea, second edition - 1993

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bee orchid — noun European orchid whose flowers resemble bumble bees in shape and color • Syn: ↑Ophrys apifera • Hypernyms: ↑orchid, ↑orchidaceous plant * * * noun see bee orchis * * * bee orchid or …   Useful english dictionary

  • bee orchid — noun an orchid with a flower that resembles a bee. [Ophrys apifera and related species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • bee orchid — /ˈbi ɔkəd / (say bee awkuhd) noun any of various orchids with flowers resembling a bee, as Ophrys apifera, Caleana major, Diuris carinata …  

  • Orchid of the Year — The Orchid of the Year is a yearly honor given since 1989 to an orchid species native to Germany by the Arbeitskreis Heimische Orchideen (Native Orchid Research Group, AHO), a German orchid conservation federation. The choice of orchids follows… …   Wikipedia

  • bee orchis — noun or bee orchid : a European orchid (Listera apifera) whose flowers bear a resemblance to bees, flies, or other insects * * * bee orchid or bee orchis, a European orchid noted for the resemblance of part of its flower to a bee …   Useful english dictionary

  • bee — n. 1 any four winged insect of the superfamily Apoidea which collects nectar and pollen, produces wax and honey, and lives in large communities. 2 any insect of a similar type. 3 (usu. busy bee) a busy person. 4 esp. US a meeting for communal… …   Useful english dictionary

  • bee-orchis — beeˈ orchis noun An orchid of the genus Ophrys, whose flower resembles a bee • • • Main Entry: ↑bee …   Useful english dictionary

  • bee flower — bee flower, any one of various flowers or flowering plants, such as the orchid, violet, larkspur, mint, snapdragon, and pea, which attract bees by their fragrant odors and by petals of colors other than red (to which bees are color blind) …   Useful english dictionary

  • orchid — /awr kid/, n. 1. any terrestrial or epiphytic plant of the family Orchidaceae, of temperate and tropical regions, having usually showy flowers. Cf. orchid family. 2. the flower of any of these plants. 3. a bluish to reddish purple. [1835 45; < NL …   Universalium

  • Bee — Taxobox name = Bees image width = 200px image caption = Honeybee ( Apis mellifera ) collecting pollen regnum = Animalia phylum = Arthropoda classis = Insecta ordo = Hymenoptera subordo = Apocrita superfamilia = Apoidea unranked genus = Anthophila …   Wikipedia

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